US Climate Envoy Meets Pope, Speaks At Vatican Conference



VATICAN CITY (CNS) – John Kerry, US President Joe Biden’s special climate envoy, met privately with Pope Francis on May 15, the day after a keynote address at a closed Academy meeting Pontifical for the Sciences and the Pontifical Academy for the Social Sciences.

Because Kerry is not a head of state, the Vatican has not released any statement about the meeting, although Vatican Media has posted photos and a video clip of the meeting in the Papal Library.

The video shows Kerry giving Pope Francis his autobiography, “Every Day Is Extra,” and the Pulitzer-winning environmental novel “The Overstory” by Richard Powers. Pope Francis presented Kerry with a signed copy of his message for World Peace Day, a collection of his encyclicals, including “Laudato Si ‘” on ecology, and a sculpture of a vine.

In an interview with Vatican News later, Kerry said he believed Pope Francis intended to participate in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, commonly known as COP16, in Glasgow, Scotland, in November.

In fact, in one of the partial video clips released by the Vatican, Kerry can be heard saying to her staff, “Day one, he will be there with the heads of state.” Someone replied, “That’s great. We heard that, so it’s nice to have a confirmation.” Kerry then said: “It will be amazing. I tell you it will have a profound impact.”

In the Vatican News interview, Kerry said that the moral authority and teaching of Pope Francis about the need to tackle both climate change and poverty can rally more people to take more action on the issue. of the environment.

People need to know, he said, that it is possible to make a positive difference and that climate change can be slowed down while creating millions of new jobs.

The “concept note” of the meeting of the pontifical academies, “Dreaming of a better restart”, described “the current crisis and the state of world confusion” as the result “of the globalism of selfishness, exclusion and throwaway culture. Inequality and hunger are on the rise, posing major ethical, economic and political challenges to which policymakers and civil society must respond. “

“Profound changes in international politics and financial architecture are needed to tackle inequalities,” he said, and comprehensive plans need to be made to tackle climate change and transform the global production system and food distribution.

Pope Francis exchanges gifts with John Kerry, US Presidential Special Envoy for Climate, at the Vatican on May 15, 2021 (CNS / Vatican Media)

The first half of the afternoon meeting, which took place online and in person at the academies headquarters in the Vatican Gardens, focused on “debt relief for developing countries and the international and fiscal architecture ”.

Janet Yellen, US Secretary of the Treasury, participated in this online discussion and Kristalina Georgieva, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, delivered the keynote address. The finance or economy ministers of Mexico, Germany, Spain, Italy and Argentina were also due to speak.

“Many low-income countries do not have the resources to pay for vaccines, support households and businesses affected by the economic crisis, and pay off their debts. I am concerned about a persistent spike in global poverty and a persistent divergence in global prosperity, ”Yellen told the meeting, according to a text posted on the Treasury Department’s website.

While progress has been made in suspending “debt service payments from the poorest countries,” she said, “we need to do more”.

Business taxation and climate change are two other priority global issues for the US Treasury Department, Yellen said.

Currently there appears to be a “race to the bottom of corporate tax rates”, which may attract businesses to countries but leaves them without “stable tax systems that generate enough income to invest in essential public goods. and respond to crises “and creates inequalities. among citizens in terms of sharing the burden of government funding.

“We are working with the G20 countries to agree on a minimum global corporate tax rate that can stop the race to the bottom,” she said. “Together, we can use a global minimum tax to ensure that the global economy thrives on a more level playing field in the taxation of multinational corporations, and drives innovation, growth and prosperity.”

On the climate issue, Yellen told the conference: “The cost of inaction is too high”.

“We must fuel a clean energy revolution that creates good jobs, delivers justice, cuts emissions and pollution and tackles the climate crisis at home and abroad,” she said. “Put simply, the Treasury is focused on mobilizing finance for climate mitigation and adaptation and on supporting the broader alignment of the financial system with net zero emissions targets.”

The second panel, in which Kerry was the keynote speaker, was on “Climate change and the sustainable and equitable transformation of energy and the food system”, which the academies said would include a discussion on how to “mobilize funding public and private sectors to stimulate the net zero transition and to help vulnerable countries cope with climate impacts on the health of their populations. “

Kerry’s office has not published the text of her remarks.

The envoy was traveling to Rome, London and Berlin, May 13-19, to discuss ways to step up action to stem climate change even before world leaders meet at COP26.

In a meeting with Italian government officials on May 13, Kerry said all countries must start cutting emissions immediately if they are to have any hope of meeting the goal of keeping global warming at least. of 1.5 degrees Celsius.

“It is not enough to say ‘zero emissions by 2050’,” Kerry said, according to the Italian news agency ANSA. “We have to do the things now that will get to what we need by 2050.”


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